DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2015
FEATURING THE QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
WEDNESDAY 11 MARCH 2015
Another gallant effort from Any Currency (Woody) in the
Cross-Country Chase ... but he had to settle for 2nd place again.
Click here to read Day 2 Diary Part I
It was now time for the feature event of the day, the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Despite now being 11 years old, Somersby can still get excited ahead of a race; this being the case, he was first to exit onto the racecourse and he also led the competitors in the pre-race parade. As noted earlier, numbers 1 and 2 were absent; Champagne Fever was reported to have suffered a superficial head injury when travelling from Ireland to the racecourse, and Clarcam had run in yesterday’s Arkle, so was too stiff to run again today!
Willie Mullins later decided that, when travelling, the grey would be transported alone to avoid such problems! Although there were also rumours that a stable-mate had, in fact, bitten Champagne Fever! The trainer later said the horse had got a ‘bite on his lip’ and hadn’t been himself, hence his non-runner status on this particular day.
Anyway, this meant that the Mick Channon-trained runner followed the two hunters when led up in front of the grandstands, followed by Dodging Bullets, Mr Mole, Savello, Simply Ned, Sire De Grugy, Sizing Europe, Special Tiara and Sprinter Sacre. What is it with the letter ‘S’ and top class 2-mile chasers?
Parade over, the nine runners cantered back down the turf to enter the all-weather strip and canter to the starting gate at the far end of the home straight.
The favourite for the race was the returning 2013 winner Sprinter Sacre at 9-4 and second favourite was last year’s winner Sire De Grugy, despite a mid-season set-back, and priced at 5-2. Dodging Bullets, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, was the form horse this season having won the Tingle Creek Chase and a Grade 1 at Ascot too.
AP McCoy was aboard the enigmatic Mr Mole, who had managed to win Newbury’s Game Spirit Chase the previous month despite being left at the start although, that day, Sire De Grugy had unseated when having his first run back following his set-back and Uxizandre had blundered at the last and unseated Barry Geraghty too. Also returning, at the grand old age of 13, was the 2011 winner Sizing Europe; he’d also been runner-up in this race in 2012 and 2013.
Having milled around in the enclosure to the inside of the course, as race time approached the horses were ridden out onto the track; initially heading away from the tape before turning and walking, on whole, towards it.
Then they were off; first time. There was no surprise that Special Tiara was at the head of affairs as they travelled towards fence number one; stable-companion Sizing Europe, together with Dodging Bullets disputed second position. All of the experienced chasers cleared the obstacle without bother. At the rear of the field, Savello blundered at the second.
Having jumped this fence, Special Tiara now took a stronger hold under Noel Fehily as they joined the Old Course and headed to the third. Dodging Bullets and Sizing Europe continued to dispute second position, from Mr Mole, the noticeably sweating Somersby, Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy, Simply Ned and Savello. AP McCoy’s mount wasn’t fluent at this fence. Every runner cleared the following fence without an issue.
Although more under control now, Special Tiara was possibly up to eight lengths ahead of his nearest rival as he turned away from the main grandstands and headed up the hill towards fence number five. Again there were no problems at this obstacle. It was now time to enter the back straight and head down the slope to the next fence. Noel Fehily’s mount continued to hold a clear lead from Dodging Bullets, Sizing Europe, Somersby, Mr Mole, Sprinter Sacre, then there was a short gap to Simply Ned and Sire De Grugy; the latter less than fluent jumping the fence. Savello remained a couple of lengths adrift in rear.
The field had closed the gap slightly between themselves and the leader as they headed over the water-jump for the one and only time. Sizing Europe hit the next, which was the first of the open-ditches; as a result, his jockey had to push him along as he travelled away from the fence. Special Tiara was much closer to his rivals as they headed over the following fence; Mr Mole made another error here.
Having negotiated the dog-leg turn, the runners headed towards the final open-ditch. Special Tiara continued to lead however, from Dodging Bullets and Somersby disputing second. Sprinter Sacre travelled in fourth place, just ahead of Mr Mole and the ridden along Sizing Europe; Sire De Grugy was in seventh position, just behind him Simply Ned and, still at the rear, Savello.
Somersby was a little less than fluent at the open-ditch, Sire De Grugy reached for it but was fine, and Simply Ned made an error here. Having reached the top of the hill, the runners then galloped around the far bend and headed down the hill to the third last. Special Tiara still held the advantage as they jumped it, but only by a length from Dodging Bullets and Somersby. Sprinter Sacre travelled just behind these in fourth, and he was just half a length up on Sire De Grugy and Mr Mole.
Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount drew alongside the long-time leader as they headed to the final bend; Somersby was now a couple of lengths adrift in third and being urged along to keep pace with the leaders, and Sire De Grugy had taken fourth. Entering the home straight, these four horses appeared to be the only ones left with a chance of winning.
Dodging Bullets was marginally ahead as they cleared the penultimate fence, but he was less than fluent here; to his inside Special Tiara battled gamely in an attempt to fight off the challenge. Somersby, although under pressure, was answering every call to the outside; but Sire De Grugy was unable to pick up the leaders as they headed towards the final fence. The game was up for Sprinter Sacre at this point as, having turned into the home straight, he ran out of petrol and was pulled up having jumped two out.
Under a strong drive from Noel Fehily, the long-time leader managed to hold his own and was still upsides Dodging Bullets as they cleared the last; Somersby just half a length down too. After the last, the Paul Nicholls runner wandered slightly on the flat as Somersby laid down his challenge to the outside, but he stayed on resolutely to win by 1¼ lengths at the line from the Mick Channon runner. Special Tiara claimed 3rd place a further 1¾ lengths behind him. Sire De Grugy finished in 4th, 7 lengths away; Simply Ned was 5th, followed by Savello, Sizing Europe and Mr Mole crossing the line in their own time.
It was hust like buses for Sam Twiston-Davies; you wait for ages, then ride one winner and another comes along straight away!
I stayed beside the course-side rails to see the winning horse and jockey pass by.
This son of Dubawi was bred by Frankie Dettori, so it was no surprise that the popular flat-race jockey was on hand when the prizes were awarded following the race.
It was Somersby’s seventh successive Festival run; trainer Mick Channon was pleased with the horse but slightly gutted that the veteran chaser had had such a good season without getting his head in front.
Following the race, Paul Nicholls described Dodging Bullets as being mentally immature on previous Festival visits, saying that he used to get himself stressed; also the horse’s form used to tail off in the Spring. Having discovered that Silviniaco Conti suffered from stomach ulcers, they thought it might be worth trying the same remedial treatment on the winner, and they ‘tinkered’ with his breathing last Autumn too. Dodging Bullets has also worn a tongue-tie for his last three races, all of which he’d now won; he said the horse’s temperament would not have allowed this prior to the current season.
Is Sam Twiston-Davies known as ‘Batman’? For, when interviewed by Lydia Hislop, I noticed that his weight cloth had the ‘Batman’ logo etched upon it! Evidently Harry Derham, nephew of Paul Nicholls and recently retired from the saddle despite his young age, rides the horse out every day. When Frankie visited the yard, Harry refused to let him ride the horse; Frankie had to ride a stable-mate instead!
Gary Moore, trainer of Sire De Grugy, stated that the ground had been too fast for his horse today, unlike last year when he said they’d ‘just got away with it’.
Race 4 - 3:20pm.
THE BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Noel Fehily, the rider of SPECIAL TIARA, placed third, from the second last fence. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip above the permitted level. The Stewards suspended Fehily for 2 days as follows: Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 March 2015.
The Stewards considered the running of SPRINTER SACRE (FR), ridden by Barry Geraghty, and trained
by Nicky Henderson, which was pulled up. They noted the trainer could offer no explanation for the
gelding’s performance. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding during
routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.
In previous years I’ve headed across to the centre of the racecourse in order to get a better view of the Cross Country race but, this year, I stayed where I was. There was a good reason for this, namely the fact that, if Martin Keighley’s Any Currency was to win the race, I wouldn’t be able to get back to the Winners’ Enclosure in time to view the celebrations. It takes ages to return from within the centre course enclosures at the end of this race due to weight of numbers; especially as race-goers have to wait until the course is clear of horses and emergency vehicles too.
The favourite for this race was French representative, Toutancarmont, priced at 9-2; evidently the leading Cross Country horse in France. Second favourite was last year’s fourth, Duke Of Lucca, priced at 5-1. With stable jockey, Ian Popham, still recovering from injury, Aidan Coleman took the ride aboard Any Currency (Woody). Six of the field were greys!
Obviously the starting gate for the race was situated in the middle of the racecourse. This meant the horses crossed over the home straight upon leaving the horse-walk to head up in front of the Best Mate enclosure to reach it.
The starting enclosure is very small for sixteen runners to mill around within. As a result, Chicago Grey got a little too close to Any Currency, and the latter unleashed a kick with both hind-hooves. Woody is a nervous-energy kind of horse, hence the regular hood, along with cheek-pieces today too, plus noseband! When I visited last September for the yard’s public Open Day, he was living in one of the larger open-top boxes at the far end of the barn and, having got excited, he was noisily letting fly with both hooves on that day too!
The incident having happened, Chicago Grey’s jockey Davy Condon was asked to trot the horse up so that the vet could check him out. The Irish runner was fine and rejoined the others.
The runners continued to circle within the enclosure. Latterly Woody became a little muleish, refusing to move on as Aidan wished; the jockey tapped him with the whip and he lashed out again. Fortunately he did not connect with anyone on this occasion.
And then they were off ... or rather they weren’t, as Quantitativeeasing bounded forward and through the starting gate before permission was given. The others followed on for a few strides; they soon halted and returned to the starting point once more.
It was a standing start on the second occasion, with Chicago Grey slowly away. The runners were led over the first, a bank with hedge, by the other French representative Nuage D’Ainay; in the rear group, Charingworth made a mistake here. This relegated him to second-last, with solely Chicago Grey behind him.
The runners headed around a left-hand bend and then galloped to obstacle number two, a ditch with railed hedge, which they all cleared safely. Fence number three is the birch island fence; named because the fence is split into two, an identical left and right option, with a tall birch dividing ‘island’ in the middle. Six horses chose to jump the right-hand option; this included near the rear of the field Charingworth who was much less than fluent here.
Nuage D’Ainay continued to lead the way, narrowly, from Any Currency as they continued to the Aintree fence; the jockeys steered their mounts towards the outside of the track in order to jump this fence à la Canal Turn style. Near the back of the field, Dogora made a small error, and this resulted in one of the two Gigginstown runners, the grey Ipsos Du Berlais, being baulked slightly and making a mistake too.
Following the left-turn, the field headed to a bank with hedge, before crossing the mid-course chute and jumping fence number six, a double-bank of hedges. Continuing across the in-field, the next obstacle was a log topped by a hedge; Nuage D’Ainay continued to lead by a few lengths from Any Currency, Duke Of Lucca, and Toutancarmont. Sire Collonges and Hey Big Spender disputed fifth position, from Quantitativeeasing and Rose Of The Moon.
The runners then headed out over the Old Course to approach a double-bank with hedge. After that they turned right and galloped up the hill to a set of timber rails; the field had now closed up and Any Currency jumped this fence alongside the leader. Having passed two horses, Chicago Grey was no longer at the back of the field; behind him were Charingworth, who hadn’t been jumping fluently throughout, and Ipsos Du Berlais, who was probably still paying for his earlier error.
The horses crossed the far end of the chute and continued their journey uphill, bearing to their right to reach fence number ten, a railed hedge. In mid-field, Master Rajeem hit this one quite hard. The runners then traversed the downhill section of the Old Course once more before arriving at a ditch with railed hedge, there being a slight drop on the landing side too. Master Rajeem was noticeably slow at this obstacle and lost ground; Chicago Grey made an error here.
The runners continued across the in-field to fence number twelve, a pole and railed hedge, before crossing the mid-course chute once more to arrive at the ditch in front of a raised bank, with a hedge at the far side to negotiate in order to reach ground-level again. With so much experience over this course, Any Currency landed first over the obstacle. They then continued towards the throng of spectators surrounding the water-jump, the latter being at the bottom of a dip because it’s part of the stream which runs across the course.
Having jumped this fence, the horses were steered sharply left to head towards the two cheese wedges, fences 15 and 16 respectively. Any Currency and Nuage D’Ainay continued to dispute the lead, with two of the greys, namely Chicago Grey and Ipsos Bu Berlais, still bringing up the rear. On this occasion it was the French raider who was the quicker over this ‘combination’ fence. The first, and largest, figure of eight circuit had now been completed.
Another sharp left-hand turn took the runners to fence number 17, a ditch with railed hedge; the fence having already been number two on the first circuit. To the inside of the runners, in mid-field, Quantitativeeasing was a little awkward in the air. Following the jump, the field headed around a 45 degree turn to approach the raised bank with preceding ditch and rear hedge for the second time; it would be jumped at a 90-degree angle to the previous occasion.
The leading runners were well-grouped as they headed away from the obstacle and over the mid-course chute once again. Nuage D’Ainay and Any Currency continued to lead from the grey Toutancarmont and Duke Of Lucca. Also in the vanguard were the grey Sire Collonges, the grey Rose Of The Moon, Quantitativeeasing, Hey Big Spender, Are Ya Right Chief and Dogora.
There was a long run across the in-field before crossing the Old Course and reaching fence number nineteen, a ditch with bank and hedge; another fence they’d jumped previously. On this occasion they skirted the group of trees and turned immediately right to reach a double-bank with hedge before returning across the Old Course once more.
The next obstacle was a ditch and boarded hedge; Charingworth finally managed to get rid of his jockey Harry Bannister when he blundered at this one and unseated him. The remaining runners continued their journey across the in-field to reach the water-jump for the second and last time. Having negotiated the fence, they took a sharp left-hand turn to gallop past the many spectators before jumping a double-spread hedge. Their second circuit had now been completed; there were just nine more obstacles to negotiate.
Any Currency was now leading the field, from Duke Of Lucca, Nuage D’Ainay and Sire Collonges. However, he jumped the next fence, a bank with hedge, more slowly than his rivals and this enabled Toutancarmont and Duke of Lucca to go on. Mind you, having said that, Any Currency is able to plug on for ages under a strong ride and Aidan Coleman was about to really earn his riding fee!
The favourite led over the next, the third time they had jumped the same ditch with railed hedge, accompanied by the loose Charingworth. The leader got a little close to the next obstacle, which was the birch island fence once more; just three of the runners went for the right-hand option, namely Sire Collonges, Duke Of Lucca and the fading Nuage D’Ainay. The runners then traversed the beginning of the mid-course chute to approach the Aintree fence for the second time.
Fortunately the loose horse was far enough ahead to avoid hampering the leaders, because he headed straight on over the jump rather than steering out wide to negotiate it Canal Turn style like the others. Having crept up the inside with the hope of gaining an advantage here, Nina Carberry’s mount was slightly hampered as her rivals cut across the corner of the fence; thus she found herself shuffled back to fourth place.
The French favourite continued to lead as the runners headed over a bank with hedge just prior to crossing the racecourse chute for the last time; Any Currency continued as his nearest pursuer, with Hey Big Spender laying down his challenge too. The next fence was a double-bank with hedges, followed by the log fence with hedge on top. Having cleared this without incident, there were just two stuffed hurdles to negotiate once they exited onto the racecourse proper.
As they turned left to head down the hill to the second last, Any Currency was duelling with Toutancarmont for the lead. Close on their heels were Quantitativeeasing and Hey Big Spender, followed by Sire Collonges, Duke Of Lucca and Rivage D’Or; just behind these Uncle Junior, Dogora and Nuage D’Ainay. And just when it looked like Nina Carberry was going to cruise past to the inside of the leaders, disaster struck!
Toutancarmont dived to his left when clearing the flight, barged into Quantitativeeasing, and they both crashed through the plastic rails. To make matters worse, they also knocked over a photographer who had been standing to the inside of those aforementioned rails. The horses didn’t actually fall but, obviously, they were out of the contest.
This now left Any Currency in the lead but the improving Rivage D’Or was in hot pursuit. They headed around the home turn, with the leader hanging slightly out to his right as he approached the last; by the time they had reached it, Davy Russell’s mount was upsides. Rivage D’Or out-jumped his rival and headed up the run-in to win by 2¼ lengths at the line. But, to give Any Currency his dues, he did keep on up the hill to ward off the challenge of Uncle Junior and claim second place for the second year running. ‘Go on Woody’ was my cry as he headed to the line!
Dogora nabbed fourth at the line from Hey Big Spender and Sire Collonges. It was double on the day for jockey Davy Russell, having also won the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
The photographer involved in the penultimate flight incident was Patrick McCann who works for the Racing Post, and he suffered a broken leg as a result. Racecourses really have to brush up on their Health and Safety with regard to photographers being allowed to stand in dangerous locations.
Despite not having won, I decided to return to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Any Currency arrive back.
When Davy Russell spoke to RUK’s Lydia Hislop after the race, he spoke up for a Cross Country event being run at the Festival because he said that everyone has to remember that this is how National Hunt racing began – riding across the countryside from steeple to steeple – it’s a traditional sport.
Race 5 - 4:00pm.
THE GLENFARCLAS HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (A CROSS COUNTRY STEEPLE CHASE) (CLASS 2)
The Stewards noted that ANY CURRENCY (IRE), placed second, jinked left approaching the second last
fence causing TOUTANCARMONT (FR) to jump left, bumping QUANTITATIVEEASING (IRE) and causing
these two horses to go through the rail, striking a photographer positioned nearby. After viewing a
recording of the incident they were satisfied that it did not involve a riding offence. The Cheltenham
Racecourse Executive will review the incident.
The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from the Starter that Miss Nina Carberry, the rider of
QUANTITATIVEEASING (IRE), had allowed her horse to canter into the start. They interviewed the rider
and the Starters. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the start the Stewards found the
rider in breach of Rule (D)44.4 and suspended her for 1 day as follows: Thursday 26 March 2015.
I think it must have been at this point in the week that trainer Charlie Longsdon and friends were standing upon the steppings just in front of me.
Presentations over, I returned to the course-side rails ahead of the next race; I was in time to see the competitors canter up the all-weather strip on their way to the 2-mile starting gate at the far end of the home straight. The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle race is designed for those youngsters who are thought not to be quite good enough to take part in the Triumph Hurdle. It’s certainly made the latter race more safe, having reduced numbers in that event; there used to be regular fatalities due to weight of numbers coupled with speed.
The favourite for this event was Box Office, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by AP McCoy; price 13-2.
As the off-time of the race approached, the runners headed out of the enclosure and onto the racecourse proper. A number of the juveniles appeared quite frisky as they jogged away from the starting tape, before turning back towards it.
The starter quickly let them go, before they broke into a canter; for they had formed an orderly line to approach the starting gate despite appearing eager to get on with race. So they were off, first time.
The runners were led away by the blinkered Starchitect, son of Sea The Stars; in second spot, centre track was Gwencily Berbas. All the runners cleared the first flight without problem; although in rear the second-string McManus runner, The Saint James, was less than fluent here. The leader was keen as they headed up the home straight to hurdle number two; the cheek-pieced Verawal soon moved up into second position. Gwencily Berbas travelled in third, from Sebastian Beach, the first-time blinkered grey Arabian Revolution, with Golden Doyen to his inside.
The field cleared flight number two without incident before heading up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure; the runners were still well-grouped. So much so, that near the back of the field Mr Gallivanter was a little short of room on the top corner and bumped the plastic rails. Having entered the back straight, the runners headed down the slope to flight number three; a number of the runners clattered through it.
Starchitect continued marginally ahead of the others as they continued their journey along the back, Verawal remained a close second, with Gwencily Berbas in third. Just behind these were Golden Doyen to the inside and Arabian Revolution to the outside. Having jumped the next, the field negotiated the dog-leg turn. Towards the rear of the field travelled Hostile Fire, All Yours, Box Office, Mr Gallivanter, The Wallace Line and The Saint James.
The fifth flight claimed the first victim, when Golden Doyen misjudged his take-off and fell. He badly hampered the Gary Moore runner, Baron Alco, who had to jump the prostrate horse’s legs and Richard Johnson too. Others which had to take avoiding action were The Wallace Line, Hostile Fire and Mr Gallavanter. The Philip Hobbs runner was fine and soon got to his feet.
The remaining twenty-one runners continued to the top of the hill, with Wilson Renwick aboard the leader kicking-on as they turned the far bend to head down the hill to the third last flight. Queuing up behind the leader were Zarib, Gwencily Berbas, Verawal, Arabian Revolution, Beatabout The Bush, Souriyan and Qualando; Verawal made a mistake at the flight and dropped back, bumping Souriyan as a result. With the leaders still closely grouped, All Yours was slightly hampered in the backwash of this.
Starchitect remained ahead as they cleared two out, although Zarib and Gwencily Berbas were snapping at his heels. Two of the three Paul Nicholls-trained runners were just behind these, namely Bouvreuil and Qualando. His other runner, All Yours, was under a strong drive from Sam Twiston-Davies and disputed sixth with Box Office.
Having entered the home straight, the leaders fanned out across the course as they approached the final flight. Qualando arrived there first, from Zarib, Bouvreuil and Starchitect. However, Zarib ran out of fuel quickly after landing over it, which left Qualando and Bouvreuil to fight it out to the line; the former claimed victory by one and a half lengths. Having been at the rear of the field for much of the race, The Saint James stayed on strongly to claim 3rd, with long-time leader Starchitect battling-on to take 4th, All Yours finished 5th and Zarib 6th.
If Day One had been Willie Mullins Day, today was Paul Nicholls Day, with his third victory on the card. No Irish runners made the frame ... that makes a change! In fact Paul Nicholls’ horses had claimed 1st, 2nd and 5th. It was Nick’s second Festival victory; the first being Hunt Ball in 2012.
Richard Johnson was fine following his fall from Golden Doyen, although he did return to the Weighing Room with muddy and torn silks!
I was able to remain beside the course-side rails until the winning horse and rider had passed by, and return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure in time to see him arrive back there too. I walk fast and, possibly, it takes a little longer for the horses to make the journey now that the horse-walk has been re-aligned.
Race 6 - 4:40pm.
THE FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Wilson Renwick, the rider of STARCHITECT
(IRE), placed fourth, from approaching the second last flight. Having heard his evidence and viewed
recordings of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip
above the permitted level. They suspended Renwick for 2 days and, taking into account his deferred
suspension of 8 days previously imposed by the Disciplinary Panel, suspended him for a total of 10 days
as follows: Wednesday 25, Thursday 26, Friday 27, Saturday 28, Sunday 29, Monday 30 and Tuesday 31
March and Wednesday 1, Thursday 2 and Saturday 4 April 2015.
The Stewards considered the running of ARABIAN REVOLUTION, ridden by Barry Geraghty, and trained by John Ferguson, which finished unplaced. The Stewards noted the trainer’s explanation that the gelding may be suited by a longer trip in the future. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.
The Stewards considered the running of HOSTILE FIRE (IRE), ridden by Davy Condon, and trained by Gordon Elliott, which finished unplaced. The Stewards noted the trainer’s explanation that the gelding ran to freely in the early stages and was hampered by a faller three out. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.
The favourite for the Champion Bumper, Moon Racer who was trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore, had been an expensive purchase (for £225,000) from a Cheltenham Brightwells Sale. I saw Moon Racer win the Standard Open NH Flat Race at Cheltenham’s Showcase fixture back in mid-October. The horse’s starting price was 9-2 today.
Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Yanworth, owned by JP McManus and ridden by AP McCoy. Steve Ayres, who also looks after Balder Succes, was leading the horse around the Parade Ring. Supasundae, priced at 17-2, had beaten the Alan King runner in a bumper at Ascot back in December; following that race he’d changed hands for a tidy sum and was now owned by the ‘Sizing’ Potts and trained in Ireland by Henry de Bromhead. As an aside, Supasundae was bred by the Newsells Park Stud; I know where that is, because I’ve rambled through North Hertfordshire in the past and actually walked along footpaths across their paddocks! It’s located near a village named Barkway.
Willie Mullins had a mere six runners in the race ... and that was because his seventh, Pylonthepressure, was a non-runner! Even so, that is still marginally over a quarter of the runners! Totally ridiculous. Belinda Keighley did raise this issue of too many horses representing one yard in a tweet following the Festival ... and she has a serious point. But she agreed that there would be a problem enforcing a rule. But they manage to apply it in the Olympics, etc, when larger nations are limited to three runners per event despite having many who may make the required grade. Mind you, they also have trial events to decide.
I felt it wasn’t worth me heading down the course-side rails to view the race, as the light had faded and would make photography difficult anyway. So I stood and watched the race upon the large screen beyond the Parade Ring.
As this race took place over the extended two mile trip, the runners cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstand before heading down the turf and re-entering it to continue to the starting gate at the far end of the home straight.
Having headed away from the gate in preparation for the required sedate approach once they’d turned around, Ghost River got a little excited, then Jetstream Jack more so. In the end it was Supasundae who broke the line and the starter decided he couldn’t let them go at the first attempt. As a result they had to line up for a standing start, with Neatly Put very fidgety behind them; his jockey briefly taking his feet out of the irons.
Not satisfied, the starter asked them to take a turn; just a few of them to outside of the line did what can only be described as a pirouette! To the inside, for a few moments Up For Review was facing backwards, also playing up to the outside of the track was General Principle and Vigil. And, at one point, Ruby’s mount, Bellshill, was preparing to unleash a kick with his near-hind hoof!
Finally satisfied, the starter let them go; but a few really weren’t suited to this kind of a start and dwelt. They included Ghost River and Modus. The favourite was slowly away too, but he soon managed to ease his way ahead of a number of runners, including Neatly Put who seemed to be slightly inconvenienced as he did so. Meanwhile Au Quart De Tour had set off in front, from the keen racing Up For Review. At their heels were Supasundae, Vigil, Theo’s Charm, Stone Hard and Bordini.
As they progressed up the home straight, Up For Review took a narrow advantage due to pulling so hard; Bay Of Freedom and Neatly Put brought up the rear. Supasundae came through to lead as they turned away from the main grandstands to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure. The runners soon took the left-hand bend to begin their journey along the back straight. Travelling close behind the leader were Up For Review, Au Quart De Tour, Jetstream Jack and O O Seven; having been slowly away, Ghost River had now made up noticeable ground to the outside of the field.
The runners continued along the back straight to negotiate the dog-left turn, Jetstream Jack now pressing Supasundae for the lead. In behind this duo was the green-running Up For Review, also Au Quart De Tour, Vigil, O O Seven, Bordini, Stone Hard, Theo’s Charm, Livelovelaugh, Ghost River, Wait For Me, Bellshill, Yanworth, General Principle, Davy Doubt, Western Way, Moon Racer, Always Lion, Bay Of Freedom, Montana Belle, Modus and Neatly Put.
The competitors soon reached the top of the hill and swept around the left-hand bend before descending the slope. Supasundae and Jetstream Jack continued to lead as their rivals lined up across the racecourse ready to make their challenges. Bordini was noticeably struggling and dropped back through the field.
Having reached the bottom of the hill, Jetstream Jack drifted back into the pack as Vigil joined the leader; Wait For Me had begun to make his move up the inside under Richard Johnson and was travelling well. And tracking him through was the favourite Moon Racer. The leading duo swept into the home straight, closely pursued by the Philip Hobbs and David Pipe representatives.
As they passed between the empty wings of the final flight, to the near side Moon Racer took the lead, with Wait For Me now giving chase to him. Modus, who had been in around tenth position as they turned into the home straight, continued to stay on under pressure and overtook Richard Johnson’s mount on the climb to the line. He finished 1½ lengths behind the winner, Moon Racer. Also staying on, and appearing to need further, was Yanworth under AP McCoy; he almost got to Wait For Me, losing out for 3rd position by a neck.
Vigil was the first of the Irish home, in 5th; which meant that everything had been turned on its head in the 2015 renewal of the race, with British horses filling the first four places. And, considering the number of Willie Mullins entries, they ran poorly; the first home being Bellshill under Ruby Walsh in 10th!
So, by the end of day two, the GB team had begun to claw their way back to 6 winners compared to the Irish team’s 8 winners. We were still trailing, but at least the numbers were heading in the right direction!
Tom Scudamore was literally ‘over the moon’ aboard Moon Racer as he returned to the Winners’ Enclosure following the race. When interviewed by RUK’s Lydia Hislop, Tom admitted that it had not been his plan to get away slowly; the horse had hesitated due to its inexperience, having had just two previous races and never undertaken a standing-start before. He said some horses take to it; others don’t and are thus slowly away. Being further back in the field than hoped, Tom resigned himself to seeing what happened, and the horse was good enough to overcome the problems regardless.
Race 7 - 5:15pm.
THE WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER (A STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT
FLAT RACE) (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
Mr P W Mullins rider of BORDINI (FR) which was pulled up, reported that the gelding weakened quickly
turning into the home straight. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding
during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.
Non-Race Related Incidents
Race 2: The Stewards noted that the Veterinary Officer gave permission for SOUTHFIELD THEATRE
(IRE), placed second, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, and trained by Paul Nicholls, not to enter the
unsaddling enclosure because it had sustained a wound to its left foreleg.
Race 3: BARIZAN (IRE), trained by Brendan Powell, was withdrawn by the Starter, acting on Veterinary
advice, after it had been kicked by another runner.
Race 5: The Stewards noted that CHICAGO GREY (IRE) had been kicked at the start, but after being
examined by the veterinary surgeon was passed fit and was allowed to run.
Race 7: Following a false start in this race, the Starters reviewed the video footage and were satisfied that
no rider had breached the Starting Procedures.
Presentations over, it was soon time for me to leave. Better safe than sorry, I popped to the loo prior to leaving. I’m not sure why the pegs on the inside of the loo doors aren’t more substantial, as my bag slipped off the end and crashed to the floor. Fingers crossed that my camera, new mobile phone and old pay-as-you-go mobile phone survived the impact; and my best spectacles and the spectacles I wear when I take photos too – it’s a very big handbag because it needs to be!
I find it difficult to see close up objects when I’m wearing my contact lenses, hence the back-up glasses; although my sight in this department is improving as old age long-sightedness begins to compensate for the short-sightedness caused by too many hours spent crafting over the years! These days I even have to wear glasses to see my computer screen at work, and another pair to knit, sew and make jewellery. I’ve not resorted to expensive varifocal glasses yet. I didn’t need to wear glasses at all until I was 29.
I returned along the concourse, over the bridge, across the driveway, headed past refreshment kiosks to my left, before weaving between traffic to cross the Evesham Road. Just prior to the latter, I was handed a sheet of runners and riders for Thursday; always useful. I walked up the driveway opposite, before entering the bottom field and turning right to walk along the top thereof. There’s a gap at the far corner, then a brief section of grass, before I crossed the farm driveway and entered the area where the temporary staff parked their cars ... and me too! There’s obviously a public footpath across the driveway, as there are stiles in the fencing each side of it; but, because there were also gaps in that fencing, I didn’t need to climb over them ... although I might have done so in my rambling days! Many a time I’ve done an unintended flying dismount from a slippery wooden stile!
Having returned to my car, I consumed the remaining two cheese rolls. I also checked that the contents of my handbag were undamaged. Everything was working okay and my glasses were fine; although maybe the lid of the case containing my best glasses was slightly out of alignment now. I’d only bought it during a visit to Dunelms a couple of weeks ago; it’s amazing what items you find close to the check-outs! And my race-card looked a little battered too; with a half inch tear across the first three pages.
I set out upon my return journey at 18:20. Having been parked in the farthest Swindon Lane car park, upon exit I had to turn right as directed by the traffic police officers; this meant that I missed the entry point to Tommy Taylors Lane. Mind you, Windy Ridge has often been my preference in recent years as I find it bypasses the longest queues. But, today, I was annoyed to discover that all traffic heading in a westerly direction was being sent along this thoroughfare by another traffic officer and this had caused a tail-back at the far end of it. Poodles.
Once I’d eventually reached the T-junction at the far end of Windy Ridge, I turned left to travel back along Swindon Road. There’s a mini-roundabout a short distance along and I turned left again at this point to remain on the same road. Further along, I forked off to the left along St Paul’s Road and had soon driven past the Tommy Taylors Lane/Folly Lane exit. I really don’t like driving along St Paul’s Road, as vehicles are parked along the left-hand side and the road continues to narrow as it approaches Clarence Square; as a result there’s always a need to give way to oncoming vehicles.
Having briefly waited in a queue at the traffic-lit junction with the Evesham Road, I proceeded into the one-way Clarence Road opposite. I took the left-hand option, to arrive at the first roundabout on the Prestbury Road, where I turned right and travelled around Pittville Circus before heading along Pittville Circus Road to reach Hewlett Road. There are a number of retirement apartment blocks situated on roads off of Pittville Circus Road and I quite fancy moving to Cheltenham when the time comes ... it’s not too far away in years either. L I wish I was 20 years younger.
I turned left into Hewlett Road and had soon reached the longabout, where I turned left then right to head up Harp Hill. But I was perturbed to discover a smallish-sized coach was heading up the incline in front of me, much to the annoyance of oncoming traffic, and me too. Having turned into Greenway Lane, it was also a very tight squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze for him to negotiate the two traffic calming chicanes. I arrived at Sixways at 18:40.
The coach was obviously heading towards London, because it then travelled up the A40 immediately ahead of me; however I was able to overtake it at the traffic lights on the Andoversford bypass because I was quicker off the starting line! Once given my head, I was able to make good progress and had sight of the tail-lights at the rear of the preceding convoy not long after negotiating the roundabout upon the Stow/Cirencester Road.
As I prefer to leave a sensible sized gap between myself and the vehicle in front, a driver chanced their arm by pulling out of a side-turning on the left; they were turning right but I had to brake because they’d misjudged the speed at which I was travelling. The numpty.
Having reached Oxford, once again I chose the quicker M40/M25 route home. There’s always a risk of losing concentration on the motorway when tired and, as it turned out, today would be the low-point of Cheltenham week as regards tiredness. I think my earlier headache had contributed and I yawned on a number of occasions during the latter part of my journey.
As I was approaching Junction 21A I noticed warning signs notifying drivers of an accident just after the junction. So, to ensure I wasn’t delayed, I decided to leave at the aforementioned interchange. As I needed to top up the petrol tank yet again, I drove through St Albans city centre on my final leg of the journey in order to do so at my usual supermarket forecourt. I arrived home at 20:43.
As per yesterday, I uploaded today’s photographs for safe keeping and copied a number of links in preparation for writing my Festival blogs the following weekend. Supper this evening was spaghetti on toast. I turned in at around 22:45.
Two down and two to go!
Photos - Cheltenham Festival Day 2 – Race 3